|World Cup warm-up, Southampton|
|Australia 297-9 (50 overs): Smith 116, Warner 43, Plunkett 4-69|
|England 285 (49.3 overs): Vince 64, Buttler 52, Behrendorff 2-43|
|Australia win by 12 runs|
England fell to a 12-run defeat by Australia in a thrilling World Cup warm-up match in Southampton after Steve Smith’s first century since being banned for his part in the ball-tampering scandal.
Smith hit 116 off 102 balls in an impressively composed innings to steer his side to 297-9.
James Vince and Jos Buttler struck fine fifties to seemingly put England on course for victory only for Australia to regularly peg the hosts back.
Needing 15 off the last over, England lost their two final wickets to end a disappointing and disjointed chase.
England, who also sustained a series of injury worries, face Afghanistan in another warm-up on Monday before facing South Africa in Thursday’s World Cup opener.
Defending champions Australia begin their campaign against Afghanistan on 1 June after a warm-up match with Sri Lanka on Monday.
England unusually fall short
Even in an unofficial match with relaxed rules – Australia named a team of 12 and England were able to bring in substitutes for injured players – the hosts were expected to comfortably chase down a target of under 300.
The pitch offered some variable bounce – openers Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow both caught after miscuing shots – while off-spinner Nathan Lyon was especially canny, but England will be frustrated to have fallen short, even if the result will likely not have much impact on their World Cup campaign.
Having to miss Hampshire’s One-Day Cup defeat by Somerset at Lord’s, Vince emulated England’s usual number three Joe Root with an innings of deft accumulation, clipping through mid-wicket and mid-on to accompany his trademark cover drives.
Buttler changed the tempo of the chase in the 27th over as he smacked Nathan Coulter-Nile for 24 off six balls, including two brilliant sixes down the ground and over square leg.
He surged to 52 off 30 balls, only to fall to the next delivery, tamely chipping Coulter-Nile to Usman Khawaja before Vince guided it straight to Lyon in the trap at short third man for 64.
Moeen Ali (22) fell slogging to leg-spinner Adam Zampa and Tom Curran was dismissed cheaply before Chris Woakes countered with 40 and Liam Plunkett struck 19.
But once both departed, Adil Rashid and Jofra Archer – who were both only batting due to injuries – had no chance, a clearly hampered Archer run out trying for two in the game’s final act.
Injury worries for England
A day after England were relieved to find Eoin Morgan’s small finger fracture will not keep him out of Thursday’s World Cup opener against South Africa, they had several injury concerns arise in Southampton:
- Fast bowler Mark Wood is the only major worry, having felt discomfort in his left foot and going off, unable to finish his fourth over. England are awaiting results of a scan.
- Substitute fielder Jofra Archer took a blow attempting to make a diving stop on the boundary but later returned to the field
- Liam Dawson split the skin on his right ring finger and did not bat as a precaution
- Chris Woakes played solely as a batsman to rest his long-standing knee issue and was only starting due to Morgan’s injury
Rashid’s existing shoulder injury prevented him from fielding, meaning 42-year-old assistant coach Paul Collingwood spent long periods in the field.
Root was also called into action despite not being due to play following the death of his grandfather two days ago.
Smith and spinners supreme
Smith played a superb anchor innings, moving to off to clip away anything on his pads or angling the bat to guide the ball either side of point.
He hustled between the wickets to ensure he kept his strike-rate up near a run a ball before a late flourish saw him hit a six over point and another with a pre-meditated scoop over the keeper.
A customary tap into the leg side brought up his hundred, marked with a fairly muted celebration as applause and boos blended, before he finally fell to a contentious decision, with the third umpire judging his chip to Tom Curran had not hit the pitch first.
Such knocks will have limited effectiveness if the other batsmen cannot kick on – Alex Carey’s 30 off 14 balls the only fluent innings elsewhere – while Australia still look unsure of their best line-up, although it proved enough here.
That was also due to Lyon’s miserly spell of 1-37 off 10 overs that ensured England never got away, ably supported by Zampa’s 1-54.
Seamers Kane Richardson and Marcus Stoinis also executed superbly in a tense finale and, with fast bowlers Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc to return, this will give Australia confidence they can defend totals that look under par.